A week of firsts for BBC North

Tuesday 4 October 2011, 12:58

Peter Salmon Peter Salmon Director, England

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A helicopter arriving during the first Blue Peter show at BBC North in Salford

It's been a week of 'firsts' here at BBC North. Our first one hundred days on site. The first Blue Peter and R5L shows last week. The first File On Four and BBC Manchester programmes this week as well as the first students arriving at the University of Salford. And last weekend, the first visit by a Prime Minster. But more about that later.

As one journalist tweeted during last week's visit by the Broadcast Press Guild - 'I'm a Salford virgin'.

Join the club.

As we approach the half-way stage of our migration, there are now over 1,200 staff working on-site. And as more and more people arrive not only to work and study but also to be part of a studio audience or simply to enjoy live events on the piazza, there is an ever growing buzz of excitement and sense of community around the place.

Only last week, and never a programme to do things by halves, Blue Peter presenters Helen Skelton and Barney Harwood cut a dash as they arrived for their first show from Salford Quays. While Barney cruised down the Manchester Ship Canal on a jet ski, Helen touched down in the piazza courtesy of a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter. Joined by Barney the dog in their new, purpose-built studio, this marked an exciting start to the next chapter in Blue Peter's fifty-three year history.

Later that same evening, Tony Livesey's lively late night Radio 5 live programme also began broadcasting live from Quay House. Tony and his team had been based in our offices down the road in Oxford Road for a while so it was good to welcome them to their new home and also Stephen Nolan and his colleagues who arrived successfully over the weekend too - his broadcast from a Wigan A and E unit was outstanding. During the next few weeks we look forward to welcoming the rest of Radio 5 live to Quay House.

And tonight File on 4 - one of my old shows - go live from Salford. This flagship BBC Radio 4 series has a long and proud history in the North West of England, having been made in Manchester since it was first commissioned 34 years ago. And next weekend BBC Manchester itself will begin broadcasting live from the site, marking a real milestone in making MediaCityUK the new home for news both for the North West as well as the whole of the UK. That will really feel like a special moment.

Barney, Helen, Tony, Stephen and Gerry join a growing list of presenters and programmes broadcasting live from here joining Football Focus as well as the presenters of CBBC and CBeebies. And currently in the studios we have Justin Fletcher charming an audience of excitable pre-schoolers with his antics in his brand new series, Justin's House. Following in the footsteps of entertainment studio pioneers MasterMind and Question of Sport who were recording earlier this summer.

And it's a week of political firsts too. Not only do we have Young People's Question Time for BBC3 and BBC One's Question Time ahead of us this week, but the Prime Minister was interviewed here live on the Andrew Marr Show.

During his visit and speaking on the programme, David Cameron was clear on his support for what we are doing here in the North of England. He commented on the show that it was a "really good thing" that the BBC was investing in a new creative hub here in the region, along with our neighbours ITV.

Getting programmes to air and votes of encouragement balance the more ridiculous claims that continue to be levelled against us. In the last week alone we've been accused of everything from fostering Cheshire love nests to increasing the divorce rate and even banning telephones in our buildings. How silly these claims seem in comparison to what we are actually achieving.

Yet while we all know that there is still a great deal more to be done, I feel really proud of everything that has been achieved so far. We have done so much with great teamwork - more than 1,200 of us in the North team so far, each one playing their part.

Now I wonder if I can get a ride on that jet ski?

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